The General Public License Version 3.0: Making or Breaking the FOSS Movement?
14 Mich. Telecomm. Tech. L. Rev. 265 (2008)
37 Pages Posted: 9 Sep 2012
Date Written: 2008
Free and open source software (FOSS) development has become a huge success. A significant part of that success has been the Free Software Foundation’s (FSF) GNU General Public License (GPL), which governs a large majority of FOSS projects worldwide. After nearly sixteen years, the FSF recently updated the GPL (GPL3) to deal with changes in the software world. Two of the primary changes GPL3 deals with are software patents and digital rights management (DRM), and these license changes in particular have sparked intense debates within FOSS world. Pragmatists, and those more closely aligned with the Open Source Initiative’s (OSI) approach, have fretted that GPL3 could balkanize FOSS development and cause large-scale corporate withdrawal from the FOSS world. The FSF, meanwhile, believes GPL3 is absolutely necessary to preserve FOSS momentum in the modern world. Who is right? While GPL3 and its patent and DRM provisions will certainly result in social and legal complications, its unifying potential and ability to deal with real threats to FOSS development outweigh any perceived disadvantages. Speed bumps will occur along the way, but GPL3 ultimately represents a step in the right direction.
Keywords: Open Source, Free Software, General Public License, GPL
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